By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
This year’s Memorial Day ceremony is set to combine rigorous tribute and storytelling with a notable twist.
Proceedings begin at 10 a.m. Monday, May 27, in the Leonard Park pavilion, presented and hosted by members Gainesville’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hughes-Tune Post 1922.
“It’s just to celebrate the men and women who died in battle,” said VFW member George Grounds. “We memorialize them.”
As in years past, the brief service will cite not only veterans living and dead but the “Gold Star” mothers and female spouses of veterans, plus a ceremonial memorial wreath placing in the pavilion.
Scheduled speaker Dennis Kretzschmar, a veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said this year’s speech will emphasize soldiers lost in World War II.
“Without those guys, we wouldn’t have the freedom we have today, for sure,” he said. “It’s very important that we remember those veterans who have lost their lives.”
And Kretzschmar added that he often speaks at such ceremonies and makes it a point to include the ironic story of his grandfather, a “full-blooded German” from the farm territory of Hanover, Germany, who nonetheless left home and fought on the American side during World War I.
“He came as a refugee to the States,” he said, adding that his grandfather, E.A. Kretzschmar, had parents who disapproved of the political direction Germany was taking. “They got him out of there, and they didn’t want to lose their name. They didn’t like the way the country was headed and they could see there could be trouble down the road — and they wanted to make sure they had one son who made it.”
Consequently, Kretzschmar said, his German grandfather fought against German soldiers after time stationed in Fort Smith, Ark.
“He was wounded in battle and got a Purple Heart, and one of the things I didn’t get to ask my grandfather was how he felt fighting his own country,” he said. “Today I wish I had him back so I could ask him that question. Because it had to play on him in some way or another.”
Later in life, Kretzschmar said, his grandfather owned farmland on the Oklahoma side of Red River, developed near the then-active Camp Howze base in Cooke County. The base circulated German prisoners of war, and without doubt, his grandfather saw them face to face.
“He knew they were there,” he said. “I don’t know everything about that, but he must have seen them.”
For more information about the ceremony, call (940) 665-9054.